Google’s charming shape-shifting logo feature, Google Doodle, helps us celebrate holidays and learn history. The Doodles prompt Google-fueled adventures looking for information about different people or places. On March 8th, 2018, Google outdid itself with a collection of comics for International Women’s Day. Twelve poignant comics by women from around the globe celebrate their experiences. The beautiful shorts describe a life-changing moment or person in each woman’s life. The women and their comics are excitingly diverse, perfectly demonstrating that there is no single way to be a woman. However, the comics share many of the same themes, proving that across time and space, women’s experiences, dreams, and achievements transcend boundaries. As a result, the 12 International Women’s Day comics emphasize the importance of intersectionality within communities of women.
What seems like a small series of comics for a somewhat lighthearted Google feature is, in reality, a massive undertaking. The comics with words were translated into over 80 different languages for the International Women’s Day features. Comics are often seen as a male-dominated field. However, women have and continue to play a vital role in comics culture. Appropriately, the International Women’s Day Google Doodle highlights that fact.
Indeed, one of the secondary functions of this Google Doodle is that it promotes both comics as an art form as well as the importance of inclusiveness in comics and society. Google is used in over 3 billion searches every day (I googled it!). It is also a giant company that owns many smaller companies from the obvious GoogleMaps to YouTube. Google Doodles influence the public. By promoting International Women’s Day and including international women creators, Google is making a point about women and comics broadly, and women in comics specifically.
Whether by design or by accident, the comics appear in no particular order. No comic or country of origin takes privilege over another. Chihiro Takeuchi from Japan, Laerte from Brazil, Karabo Poppy Moltesane of South Africa, Tunalaya Dunn from Thailand, Germany’s Anna Haifisch, Isuri from Sri Lanka, England’s Philippa Rice, American Tillie Walden, Esteli Meza from Mexico, Francesca Sanna from Italy and Switzerland, Saffa Khan of Pakistan and England, and India’s Kaveri Gopalakrishnan all add their voices to explore women’s experiences. Some focus on the impact of major cultural events, others address the impact of brave women. Many of the comics also address the importance of women’s artistic freedom.
Women, Art, and Love
The Google Doodle is packed with artistry. Indeed, it is obvious why each artist was included in the project. Several of the comics focus on the love of creativity and art. For example, Chihiro Takeuchi, known for her masterful papercut artwork, cut the darling comic AGES AND STAGES. The wordless comic reminds readers that no matter how old she may be, a woman’s creativity knows no bounds. Another comic focusing on artwork is German artist Anna Haifisch’s NOV 1989. The comic gives thanks to the protesters who helped dismantle the Berlin Wall. Haifisch’s artwork is somewhat surrealist but also quite endearing with its animal-like characters and bright colors. Haifisch credits the political change for having given her the power to choose to become an artist.
Taken together, the emphasis on creative freedom gives the Google Doodle even more political edge. By giving these creators a platform, Google points out the significance of women’s creative freedom — and the marvelous results.
Comics for All Women?
The inclusion of LBTQ+ women in the collection is an important one. Historically, similar celebrations of women on a national or international scale often omit queer women. Luckily, the Google Doodle does not. Tillie Walden’s MINUTES also acknowledges the importance following your heart. MINUTES showcases Walden’s emotive artistic style and poetic writing as well as reflecting her identity as a gay woman. Another sweet and wordless comic is Laerte’s, entitled LOVE. Laerte’s comic is the only comic featuring an openly trans character. As a result, the International Women’s Day Google Doodle takes a significant step towards a positive representation of all women. Likewise, many of the comics centralize women of color. Indeed, it could not be a true celebration of women without women of color.
Unfortunately, no comic in the collection directly represents women with disabilities, which is a hugely problematic omission. People with disabilities are largely underrepresented, and the comics industry is only just beginning to include characters with disabilities (articles on this issue can be found here). While the Google Doodle does include a comic about cancer, as well as allusions to anxiety and depression, women with disabilities are not a prominent feature of the Doodle. While it takes some strides in representation, here is where the Doodle falls short.
Who Run the World?
Google could have used their doodle to present a more overtly inclusive model of women and women’s art. Although the Doodle takes a political stance highlighting many intersections of women’s lives, many of the comics could have taken a direct approach to oppression. Women of color are present, but there is little note of the unique oppression women of color face every day. But the inclusion of direct representations of women with disabilities, or the unique experiences of women of color, for example, might give the Doodle a stronger political voice. Not all art must be political. The Doodle highlights women’s experiences, drawing attention to women as a political and social group. But more direct political engagement by Google could strengthen the image of women as a group with power despite oppression to an international audience.
Future Doodles, for women and/or by women, might take an even greater political tone. As it is, this year’s Doodle does take an interesting approach to highlighting traditionally gendered roles. Several of the comics reflect on mothers. For example, Isuri’s AARTHI THE AMAZING, Saffa Khan’s HOMELAND, and Philippa Rice’s TRUST. While this narrative about women may not be inherently groundbreaking, the comics demonstrate the beauty and importance of strong mothers of all backgrounds. Moreover, the Doodle emphasizes mothers as leaders, teachers, and caretakers. The comics tell the story from mothers and daughter’s perspectives. Taken optimistically, the Google Doodle honors women in all roles — from artists to mothers, and everything in between. Ultimately, the Google Doodle comics show how powerful women truly are. With these inclusions, the Google Doodle shows the importance of women in all roles.
Why the Google Doodle Matters
Intersectional feminism asserts that women from all walks of life and from all identities deserve equality, respect, and fundamental human rights. Whatever Google’s intentions — more likes, more searches, or more social equality — the March 8, 2018 International Women’s Day Google Doodle honors women around the world within the spirit of intersectionality. Importantly, the Google Doodle showcases artwork by women for women. Moreover, it doesn’t define what it means to be a woman, nor does it claim that all women are the same. Though imperfect, the Doodle as a whole strives to represent and celebrate diversity among women. Each artist’s voice, talents, and style shine through as individuals. But the artwork also speaks to the common experiences of women from around the world. The comics joyfully explore how women can find empowerment and empower each other.